This business English lesson plan has been designed for students of the Faculty
of Mathematics and Mechanics as a follow-up to the previous Business English
lesson plan.
This course is designed for students who wish to improve their communication
skills in English and extend their knowledge of the business world. Business
English lessons of the present course contain some activities that can simulate real
life situations that the students will be facing in the future, e. g. presentations, roleplays, relaying information, discussions where they have to come to a common
consensus, complaining etc. The students will be taught the correct vocabulary and
phrases for their specific tasks, so that they can disagree politely, present
professionally and relay information accurately. Moreover, the students are
welcome to bring in their own e-mails, letters, correspondence etc, and therefore
focus on their specific problems and areas that need improving.
The course is made up of 6 seminars (each seminar is 1.5 hours) of teaching in a
group from an English language teacher; 4 academic hours of self-paced studying
and 1 academic hour of a full assessment test including a 10 minute presentation
and report.
The plan also includes an access to the website of the English Detartment at the
Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics where the students can find some more
information on the subject.
The course will cover the following:
- Reviewing the material of the previous course;
- Presentations;
- Business meetings;
- Negotiations;
- Cross-cultural integration.
Basic textbooks:
1. S. Sweeney. English for Business Communication – Teacher’s Book.
Cambridge University Press, 2002.
This course is intended as an opportunity for intermediate level students to develop
confidence and fluency in five key communication contexts: socializing,
telephoning, presenting information, participating in meetings and handling
negotiations, the course has two aims: improving communication technique and
developing and consolidating the target language appropriate to the above
communication contexts.
2. J. O’Brien. English for Business. Thomson Heinle, 2007.
The purpose of this book is to empower students with the language and life skills
they need to carry out their career goals. The four skills of listening, speaking,
writing and reading are developed throughout each unit within professional
contests. Lessons are arranged according to the situations that the students will
encounter in the job market.
3. D. Cotton, S. Robbins. Business Class – Course Book. Longman,
The textbook is designed both for students of business who wish to improve their
communication skills in English and extend their knowledge of the business world,
and for practising business people who need to use English more effectively in
their work. The course comprise 15 self-contained units which follow a clear
structure, making it suitable for use with any size of class.
Additional sources:
1. A. Lloyd, A. Preier. Business Communication Games. Oxford University
press, 1996.
2. S. Sweeney. English for Business Communication – Student’s Book.
Cambridge University Press, 2002.
3. Williams. English for Business – Teacher’s Resource Book. Thomson
Heinle, 2007.
Course outline
1. Reviewing the material of the previous course.
A warming-up activity that may be fulfilled in the class includes a number of
questions for discussion:
• Materials.
P. 1-5. Conversation Questions. Jobs & Occupations.
The material of the previous semester may be repeated and checked by the teacher.
An interesting exercise, in which the students are asked to fill in the gaps in a
here: This text and a
number of exercises may be used by the teacher in class, or the students can do this
reading comprehension task as a homework.
Many companies are interested in how the employees feel about their work. One
can speak about likes and dislikes of different positions that a person occupies at
or occupied
in the past using the
The teacher may discuss with the students different characteristics and skills most
valued by employers in today’s job market as it is proposed in the following
Skills of workers, advantages and disadvantages of taking jobs may be also
Besides, the students may fulfill different kinds of activities for widening their
active business vocabulary (i. e. making up sentences, translation etc.) using the
following set of business abbreviations and business words:
• Materials.
P. 4-5. Vocabulary.
A collection of exercises aimed at checking up business vocabulary and lexis is
found on the site The students may
do these exercises either in class or at home.
• Textbook: Business Class.
P. 74. Unit 8. “Headhunters”.
P. 94. Unit 10. “Caution: People at Work!”
• Textbook: English for Business.
Pp. 1-14. Unit 1. “Making your way”.
• Additionally:
Textbook: Business Communication Games.
1 – “What’s your position?” (Describing sompany structure)
2a-c – “Find the colleague who…” (Introducing: exchanging information)
3a-c – “What were you doing when the boss came in?” (Describing office
activities; persuading)
4 – “The ideal boss” (Describing and evaluating character)
5 – “Priority pyramids” (Discussing job satisfaction)
6a-b – “Burnout” (Analysing work situations)
7a-d – “Where’s the General Maager’s office?” (Describing workplace)
8a-b – “And where do you work?” (Describing the advantages of different jobs)
28 – “Situations vacant” (Applying for jobs; interviewing)
29a-b – “How to get that job” (Evaluating job-hunting strategies)
2. Presentations
A verbal report, often supported by explanatory and illustrative material, in which
something is presented to an audience.
• Materials.
P. 5-9. Vocabulary. Structure of business presentations.
• Textbook: English for Business Communication.
Pp. 43-71. Module 3. “Presentations”.
• Textbook: Business Class.
P. 35. Unit 4. “Presentations”.
The students are to prepare a five-minute presentation on one of the following
• Global warming
• Ethics in business
• Online education
• Addiction
• Age discrimination
• Animal experimentation
• Women’s rights
• Driverless cars
• Social welfare
• Recycling
• TV censorship
• Democracy
3. Business Meetings
Business meetings range from gatherings of small groups of people to large
conferences with hundreds, or even thousands, in attendance.
• Materials.
P. 9-13. Vocabulary.
• Textbook: English for Business Communication.
Pp. 80-98. Module 4. “Meetings”.
• Textbook: Business Class.
P. 113. Unit 12. “Meetings”.
• Additionally:
Textbook: Business Communication Games.
15a-d – “Please take the floor” (Reviewing the language of meetings).
4. Negotiations
In the world of business, negotiating skills are used for a variety of reasons, such as
to negotiate a salary or a promotion, to secure a sale, or to form a new partnership.
• Materials.
P. 10-11. Vocabulary.
• Textbook: English for Business Communication.
Pp. 104-127. Module 5. “Negotiations”.
• Textbook: Business Class.
P. 63. Unit 7. “Negotiations”.
Textbook: Business Communication Games.
24a-c – Working it out – Negotiating an agreement
25 – Meet your match (Using the language of negotiations).
5. Cross-cultural integration
In a global business environment, it is important for employees who interact with
colleagues and customers from other countries to understand the particular nuances
of the cultures they are working with. Cultural errors can so easily be made
resulting in failed expatriate assignments, a breakdown in customer/colleague
relationships, loss of business, etc.
• Textbook: English for Business Communication.
Pp. 1-13. Module 1. “Cultural diversity and socialising”.
• Textbook: English for Business.
Pp. 57-70. Unit 5. “Global concerns”.
• Textbook: Business Class.
P. 84. Unit 9. “Corporate Culture”;
P. 130. Unit 14. “Japan Globalisation”;
P. 137. Unit 15. “Corporate Strategy”.
Textbook: Business Communication Games.
32a-f – “Behave yourself” (Inter-cultural competence)
33a-d – “Amazing facts” (Comparing cultures).
6. For self-study
• Materials.
P. 11-13. Texts.
Reviewing the material of the previous course
Conversation Questions
Jobs & Occupations
At what age do people usually begin to work in your country?
At what age do people usually retire in your country?
At what age would you like to retire?
What do you think you will do after you retire?
How much money do you think you need to retire with your lifestyle?
Can you talk about what a typical day at your current job is like?
Can you describe some of the people that you work with?
Can you describe your current job?
What was your first job?
Do women usually work after they get married in your country?
Do you ever work overtime?
If so, do you get paid more for overtime work?
Do you have a part-time job? If so, what do you do?
Do you have to attend a lot of meetings for your job?
Do you have to do a lot of paperwork?
Do you have to work overtime?
If so, how often?
Do you have to work on Sundays?
Do you know someone who has worked as an undertaker?
What is the job of a an undertaker?
Can women do this job or is it better for a man to be an undertaker?
Do you like your job? Why or why not?
Do you think it is more important to make a lot of money or to enjoy your
Do you think it's acceptable for women to be in the military? Why/why not?
Do you think people over 65 should be made to retire?
Do you think women and men should be paid the same for the same job?
Do you think women are good bosses?
Are there women bosses in your country?
Do you think your company is well run?
Do you think that the place where you work is well run?
Do you work on weekends?
Do you work on Sundays?
Does your mother work?
Does your mother work outside of the house?
Have you ever been promoted?
Have you ever taken any courses that specifically help you with the job you
are doing now?
Have you ever worked on a farm?
Did you like it?
Would you like to go back on this farm job?
If not , why?
How do you like your work?
How have working conditions changed in recent years?
Do you think that working conditions have improved? If so, in what
How long do you plan to continue working where you are?
How long have you been working at your present job?
How many days a week do you work?
How many hours a week do you work?
How many times have you been promoted?
When was the last time you were promoted?
Did you get a large pay raise at that time?
How much do you think a doctor should be paid a month?
How about a secretary?
How about a truck driver?
How much money do you make? (Maybe this is not a good question to ask.)
How much money does a secretary get paid per week?
How old were you when you got your first job?
How well do you get along with your boss?
If you could own your own business, what would it be?
If you had to choose between a satisfying job and a well-paid one, which
would you choose?
Is it common for men and women to have the same jobs in your country?
Is it easy to find a job in Canada? How about in your country?
Name three occupations that you could do. (For example, be a mortician)
Name three occupations that you could never do?
What are some common occupations in your country?
What are some common jobs for men in your country?
What are some common jobs for women in your country?
What are some jobs that children do?
What are some jobs that you think would be boring?
What are some jobs that you think would be fun?
What are some questions that are frequently asked in a job interview?
What are you responsible for?
What are you trying to do in order to find a job that you really like?
What do you do?
What's your job?
What do you like most about that job?
What do you think is the best job? What do you think is the worst?
What do you think would be the most interesting job? The most boring?
What does your father do? (What does your father do for a living?)
What does your mother do?
What influenced your choice of job? (Why did you choose your job?)
What job do you want to have in five years' time?
What job would you most like to have, if social/cultural boundaries did not
apply? (How different are they?)
What job(s) do you wish to have in the future?
What jobs in your country are considered to be good jobs? Why?
What kind of volunteer work have you done?
What kind of work do you do?
What kind of work do you want to do in the future?
What plans have you made for your retirement?
What three adjectives would describe yourself as a worker?
What time do you get home from work?
Is it the same time every day?
What time do your start and finish work?
What would be your dream job?
Do you think it would be possible for you to get this job?
What's one job you wouldn't like to do? Why not?
What's your brother's occupation?
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When you were a child, what job did you want to have when you grew up?
Where do you work and what is your current job?
Where do you work?
Which job are you best at?
Which job would you never do?
Which jobs do you think are the most prestigious?
Who among the people you know has the most interesting job? What is it?
Why did you leave your last job - did you resign or were you sacked?
Would you be upset if your boss was a woman?
Would you consider the military as a career choice? Why or why not?
Would you consider yourself to be an ambitious person at work?
Would you describe yourself as a workaholic?
Would you like a job in which you traveled a lot?
Would you like a job that required you to sit at a computer all day?
Would you like to do the same job for the rest of your life?
Would you like to work in an office? Why or why not?
Would you rather be a doctor or a banker?
Would you rather work inside or outside?
What job would you most like to do?
What are the names of some of the people with that job?
Do you personally know any one with that job?
How long do you plan to keep it for?
When do plan to retire?
What other fields or work will that job make you qualified for?
What are the work details of that job; what will be your duties at that job?
What steps are required from you to become a/an...?
So, how long before fore you become a/an...; at what ages will you both start
and finish this/each job/career?
What do you hope to spiritually gain from that job?
What do you wish to physically gain; what kind of things would you like to
buy with your money?
How much money do you need to make to fulfill you dreams and desires?
If money weren't a problem for you, which job would you prefer to have?
How does money affect your decisions?
How do your wants and desires affect your career options and goals?
How many years of schooling would you prefer to have?
Can you improve on the way things are now being done in the field you
Which college courses are needed for you to be the very best in your field?
Which college courses are required for you dream job?
What other courses do you need to take so you can pursue your hobbies and
personal interests?
Which of the classes mentioned above are you giving the highest priority?
Who is the breadwinner (provider) in your family?
Who makes the most money in your family? (This may not be a "polite"
question to ask.)
Is it common for people from your country to have one job for life?
Do you see any unfair labour practices in your country's workforce?
Do you have an after-school job?
Would you like to have a management position?
What are the pros and cons of being a manager?
What are the qualities a good boss should have?
What is a fair wage for the skills you have?
Are there any jobs which can only be done by one gender?
If so, what are they?
What are some jobs that some people think only one gender can do,
but can be done by either gender?
What should you not do during a job interview?
Who would you hire a employee with a lot of experience or an employee
with a lot of education?
Have you ever worked?
Getting a Job
What is the difference between work and a job?
Do you have a job?
How did you get it?
Did you have to go to university to get it?
What is the name of your job?
Is it a popular job?
Is it a job mainly for men, or for women?
Did you need any special training to get your job?
What type of special training did you need?
How long and where was the training?
Is it an indoor, or outdoor job?
Which do you think most people prefer, indoor or outdoor jobs?
Does your job pay a good salary?
What are the advantages and disadvantages to your job?
Which do you think are some of the more demanding jobs?
Which are the least demanding jobs?
Which jobs are badly paid?
Which jobs are over-paid?
Which job are more popular than others, and why?
Is your job competitive?
What about promotions?
Is it too competitive?
How is your relationship with your co-workers?
Why would I choose you instead of the 50 others wanting this
These were submitted as possible job interview questions.
What degrees do you have?
How much experience do you have?
Where have you worked?
Why did you choose this employment?
How much would you like to earn?
Have you ever worked in this field?
Where would you like to work? Why?
Why do you find your job interesting?
Abbreviations and Acronyms
annual general meeting
ante meridiem (before noon)
account of (on behalf of)
any other business
as soon as possible
automated teller machine (cash
for the attention of
copy to
chief executive officer
care of (on letters: at the address
cash on delivery
exempli gratia (for example)
extraordinary general meeting
estimated time of arrival
et caetera (and so on)
gross domestic product
gross national product
Greenwich mean time (time in
id est (meaning : 'that is')
I owe you
initial public offer
pound (weight)
pound (money/currency)
Employment - Jobs
Evaluation of one's abilities
Education - qualifications – experience
Additional payment to an employee as an incentive or reward
curriculum vitae
Summary of one's education and experience to date; resume
Discharge from employment (to fire, to sack, to let go)
Person who works for a firm or company.
Person or firm who employs people.
To dismiss from a job.
fringe benefits
Advantages offered in addition to salary (life insurance, retirement scheme, company car, etc.).
Also called 'perks', abbreviation for 'perquisites'.
Employ or take on personnel in a company.
Oral examination of a candidate for employment.
make redundant
Dismiss for economic reasons.
maternity leave
Period of absence for a female employee when having a baby.
Advance warning of intention to leave one's job to give or hand in one's resignation.
People who work for a firm or company (employees).
personnel officer
Manager responsible for recruitment, training and welfare of personnel (employees).
Advancement in rank or position in a company.
Opportunities for success or promotion in a career.
Look for and hire personnel.
Leave a job voluntariily.
Leave employment because of age.
sick leave
Absence because of illness - to be on sick leave.
People who work for a firm or department; employees.
Strong characteristic or particular ability.
To go on strike : to stop working in protest against something.
take on
Employ or hire.
Person being trained for a job e.g. a trainee salesman.
training course
A course of study to prepare for a job e.g. a computer course.
Payments made by the state to an unemployed person.
A position to be filled.
A lack of ability or a shortcoming in character.
Group of listeners or spectators
body language
Communication through facial expressions, body
movements, etc.
Sheet of information in the form of a table, graph or
Graphic representation of a situation e.g. the results of
an action.
flip chart
Pad of large paper sheets on a stand for presenting
Diagram showing the relation between variable
Advice or instructions given in order to guide or direct
an action.
Written information (report etc.) given to people at a
key point
Essential or main point.
Pen with felt tip used for writing on a whiteboard.
Electrical instrument used to amplify the speaker's
Overhead transparency : sheet of film with an image
or printed information for overhead projector.
What one wants to achieve; aim
Brief description or presentation.
overhead projector
Device that projects an O.H.T. onto a screen.
Short presentation of the main points.
Rod or stick used to indicate things on a map, screen,
Flat, reflective blank surface on which films, slides,
etc. are projected.
signposting language
Phrases used to help focus the audience's attention on
different parts of a presentation.
Small photographic transparency.
Make a summary of the essential points; sum up.
A presentation is a formal talk to one or more people that "presents" ideas or
information in a clear, structured way. People are sometimes afraid of speaking in
public, but if you follow a few simple rules, giving a presentation is actually very
Structure and Content
Introduction: General information on the topic
Give your listeners an introduction to the topic (some general information) and
explain what exactly you are going to talk about in your presentation.
Subdivide your presentation into several sub-topics.
Try to find a good conclusion, e.g.:
an invitation to act
an acknowledgement
a motivation
Important Tenses
Simple Present
Simple Past
Present Perfect
Tips on Giving a Presentation
As listeners cannot take up as many information as readers, keep the following
rules in mind when giving a presentation:
Keep your sentences short and simple.
Use standard English, avoid slang and techy language.
Prefer verbs to nouns (not: The meaning of this is that …, but: This means
that …).
Use participal constructions sparingly. (In written texts they are often used
to increase the density of information in a sentence. In spoken texts, however,
they make it more difficult for the listeners to follow.)
Speak clearly and slowly.
Have little breaks in between the sentences to allow your audience to reflect
on what has been said.
Communicate freely (don't read the whole text from a piece of paper).
Illustrate certain aspects of your presentation with pictures and graphics.
The following tricks will also help you keep your audience's attention:
Outline to the audience how your presentation is structured. (e.g. I will first
explain ... / Then I will … / After that … / Finally… ).
Indicate when you come to another sub-topic (I will now talk about …). This
way your audience can follow your presentation more easily.
Use a rhetorical question or hypophora from time to time. Your listeners will
think that you've asked them a question and thus listen more attentively.
Use enumerations starting first / second / third. This also draws your
audience's attention.
A joke or a quotation might also help keeping your audience listening. Don't
overdo it, however. Using too many jokes or quotations might not have the effect
you want.
Word List
I want to give you a short presentation about ...
My presentation is about ...
I'd like to tell you something about ...
I think everybody has heard about ..., but hardly anyone knows a lot about it.
That's why I'd like to tell you something about it.
Did you know that ...?
Introducing sub-topics
Let me begin by explaining why / how ...
First / Now I want to talk about ...
First / Now I want to give you an insight into ...
Let's (now) find out why / how ...
Let's now move to ...
As I already indicated ...
Another aspect / point is that ...
The roots of ... go back to ...
... began when ...
Legend has it that ...
As you probably know, ...
You probably know that ...
Maybe you've already heard about ...
You might have seen that already.
At the beginning there was / were ...
Many people knew / know ...
Hardly anyone knew / knows ...
... hit the idea to ...
... was the first to ...
It is claimed that ...
One can say that ...
I have read that ...
Pictures and graphics
Let me use a graphic to explain this.
The graphic shows that ...
As you can see (in the picture) ...
In the next / following picture, you can see ...
Here is another picture.
The next picture shows how ...
Let the pictures speak for themselves.
I think the picture perfectly shows how / that ...
Now, here you can see ...
Final thoughts on a sub-topic
It was a great success for ...
It is a very important day in the history of ...
It was / is a very important / special event.
This proves that ...
The reason is that ...
The result of this is that ...
It's because ...
In other words, ...
I want to repeat that ...
I'd (just) like to add ...
... should not be forgotten.
... has really impressed me.
I hope that one day ...
We should not forget ...
All in all I believe that...
Summing up / Finally it can be said that ...
Let me close by quoting ... who said, »...«
That was my presentation on ...
I am now prepared to answer your questions.
Do you have any questions?
Starting the presentation
Good morning/Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen
• The topic of my presentation today is ...
• What I'm going to talk about today is ...
Why you are giving
this presentation
• The purpose of this presentation is ...
• This is important because ...
• My objective is to ...
Stating the main points
• The main points I will be talking about are :
◊ Firstly,
◊ Secondly,
◊ Next,
◊ Finally ... we're going to look at ...
Introducing the first
• Let's start / begin with ...
Showing graphics,
transparencies, slides,
• I'd like to illustrate this by showing you ...
Moving to the next point
• Now let's move on to ...
Giving more details
• I'd like to expand on this aspect/problem/point ...
• Let me elaborate on that.
• Would you like me to expand on/elaborate on that?
Changing to a different
• I'd like to turn to something completely different ...
Referring to something
which is off the topic
• I'd like to digress here for a moment and just mention
Referring back to
an earlier point
• Let me go back to what I said earlier about ...
• I'd like to recap the main points of my presentation:
Summarizing or
repeating the main points ◊ First I covered ...
◊ Then we talked about ...
◊ Finally we looked at ...
• I'd now like to sum up the main points which were :
◊ First ...
◊ Second,
◊ Third,
• I'm going to conclude by ...
◊ First ...
◊ Second,
◊ Third,
• In conclusion, let me ...
◊ First ...
◊ Second,
◊ Third,
• Now I'd like to invite any questions you may have.
• Do you have any questions?
Annual General Meeting
Person not at the meeting, not present.
Written list of points to be discussed at a meeting.
Choice of two or more possibilities.
Participant or person attending a meeting.
System of secret voting;
voters place their ballot-papers in a ballot-box;
casting vote
Deciding vote, usually by the Chairman, when votes are
in equal number.
chariman /
The person who conducts the meeting.
Make something clearer by giving more information.
Formal meeting for discussion or exchange of views.
conference call
Telephone call between three or more people in different
General agreement.
Future date at which something must be done.
Reach a conclusion or resolution concerning future action.
A meeting or discussion between two or more people via
the internet.
Stop a person who is speaking in order to say or do
A separate point for discussion on an agenda.
main point
What is most essential.
A written summary of the proceedings at a meeting.
What is aimed at, what one wants to achieve or obtain.
point out
Draw attention to something e.g. point out an increase in
A course of action put forward for consideration; to make
a proposal.
proxy vote
A vote cast by one person for another.
Advise a course of action; make a recommendation.
show of hands
Raised hands to express agreement or disagreement in a
A brief statement of the main points.
A piece of work to be done; to assign a task to someone.
In complete agreement.
video conference
Conference linking people in different locations by
satellite, TV, etc.
Express one's agreement or disagreement; to cast a vote.
IV. Negotiations
Person or company that acts for another and provides a
specified service.
Arrangement between two or more people or companies.
bargain price
Reduced price
bedrock price
Lowest possible price.
Engagement or undertaking; to commit oneself.
Each party gives up certain demands in order to reach an
A stipulation or requirement which must be fulfilled.
Written agreement between two or more parties.
Offer made in response to an offer by the other party.
Having the opposite effect to that intended.
A business transaction.
Reduction in price.
Approximate calculation of the cost.
Equipment (e.g. parking facilities).
Possible, something that can be done.
figure out
Find a solution; estimate the cost.
Practical knowledge or skill.
joint venture
A way of entering a foreign market by joining with a
foreign company to manufacture or market a product or
Discuss a business deal in order to reach an agreement.
point out
Draw attention to something (e.g. the advantages of your
Course of action, or plan, put forward for consideration;
to make a proposal.
Give an estimated price (a quotation).
A selection of products sold by a company.
Reduction or discount.
Provide customers with goods or services.
Person or company that supplies goods or services.
A written offer to execute work or supply goods at a fixed
Equipment ready for use or operation (e.g. a plant or
Make too low an estimate of something (cost, danger,
work out
Calculate (e.g. price of something); find a solution.
V. Texts for self-study
The material of your presentation should be concise, to the point and tell an
interesting story. In
addition to the obvious things like content and visual aids, the following are
just as important as
the audience will be subconsciously taking them in:
Your voice - how you say it is as important as what you say
Body language - a subject in its own right and something about which much
has been written
and said. In essence, your body movements express what your attitudes and
thoughts really are.
You might like to check out this web page
Appearance - first impressions influence the audience's attitudes to you.
Dress appropriately for
the occasion.
As with most personal skills oral communication cannot be taught.
Instructors can only point the
way. So as always, practice is essential, both to improve your skills
generally and also to make the
best of each individual presentation you make.
Prepare the structure of the talk carefully and logically, just as you would for
a written report.
What are:
 the objectives of the talk?
 the main points you want to make?
 Make a list of these two things as your starting point
Write out the presentation in rough, just like a first draft of a written report.
Review the draft.
You will find things that are irrelevant or superfluous - delete them. Check
the story is consistent
and flows smoothly. If there are things you cannot easily express, possibly
because of doubt
about your understanding, it is better to leave them unsaid.
Never read from a script. It is also unwise to have the talk written out in
detail as a prompt sheet
- the chances are you will not locate the thing you want to say amongst all
the other text. You
should know most of what you want to say - if you don't then you should not
be giving the talk!
So prepare cue cards which have key words and phrases (and possibly
sketches) on them.
Postcards are ideal for this. Don't forget to number the cards in case you
drop them.
Remember to mark on your cards the visual aids that go with them so that
the right OHP or slide
is shown at the right time
Rehearse your presentation - to yourself at first and then in front of some
colleagues. The initial
rehearsal should consider how the words and the sequence of visual aids go
together. How will
you make effective use of your visual aids?
Greet the audience (for example, 'Good morning, ladies and gentlemen'), and
tell them who you
are. Good presentations then follow this formula:
 tell the audience what you are going to tell them,
 then tell them,
 at the end tell them what you have told them.
Number-crunching and problem-solving: Studying mathematics at university
Studying mathematics at university provides an academically rigorous and
diverse preparation for a range of careers after graduation, from accountancy
to biomedical research.
However, most of those who choose to study the subject do so not with a particular
career in mind, but simply because they enjoy the mental stimulation the subject
Dr Amie Albrecht, who is now a lecturer in maths at the University of South
Australia, recalls feeling attracted to the subject because, “everything seems like a
puzzle to crack”.
This idea of solving puzzles and problems is certainly at the heart of the subject –
whether those problems are highly theoretical, or of immediate practical relevance.
Studying mathematics at university: what to expect
The subject is commonly divided into ‘pure’ mathematics, which is more abstract,
and ‘applied’ mathematics, in which maths skills and knowledge are applied to
specific sectors.
As an undergraduate mathematics student, you can expect to cover key pure maths
topics such as abstract algebra, analysis, geometry and number theory.
Alongside these pure modules, you should also have the opportunity to study
current applications of mathematics to different fields of human activity.
This could mean studying the use of maths in other subjects, such
as physics, social sciences, economics, business, biotechnology or computer
If you do already have a strong interest in a particular field, it may be possible to
find a dual-degree maths degree program to match, such as mathematics and
computer science, or mathematics and business studies.
However, many general mathematics courses will also allow students to choose
their own fields of specialization, particularly towards the end of the degree.
Many maths courses will also cover the history of the subject, giving students an
overview of major historical figures and developments in the field.
What next: careers for maths graduates
The list of possible careers following a maths degree is a long one, including roles
in scientific research, business and finance, teaching, computing and various types
of analysis.
Albrecht has pursued the research route, and has been involved in projects such as
the development of more energy-efficient transport systems.
However, she knows of maths graduates who’ve gone on to do many other things,
including “plant biology, finance, energy, defence and computer game design”.
In fact, as Albrecht says, the possibilities for maths graduates are almost ‘endless’.
This is largely thanks to the high esteem employers hold for maths degrees, due to
their intellectual rigour and strong focus on developing problem-solving skills - in
demand in pretty much every job sector and role.
So, even if your decision to study mathematics at university is motivated mainly by
your love of the subject, it seems likely that your degree will provide a strong
foundation for future career options as well.
Careers for mathematicians: what can you do with a maths degree?
If you’re considering studying maths at university, you’re probably also
starting to think about the kind of careers mathematicians go on to. The short
answer is: everything from computer programming to accountancy, and
biomedical research to business management.
Dr Amie Albrecht, a lecturer at the University of South Australia (UniSA)’s
department of mathematics and statistics, says, “It can be difficult when starting
out to know where a mathematics degree will lead, but the versatility of
mathematics means that your options are broad.
“I know people with mathematics training working in plant biology, finance,
energy, defence, computer game design… the possibilities are endless.”
Dr Albrecht also points out that many mathematicians choose to combine maths
with a second interest, such as environmental studies, and says “the intersection of
two skill sets can be very attractive to future employers.”
Maths careers in research
Albrecht herself started out with a bachelor of computing and mathematics at
UniSA. At the time, she was unsure what career options were available in maths,
and thought studying computer science as well would broaden her prospects.
In fact, she’s found the two subjects work very well together, and says she now
appreciates the “vast career prospects that arise from studying mathematics.”
Much of her current research has a very practical focus – such as improvements to
the energy efficiency of transport systems – and she says, “It is satisfying to be
tackling one of our big social challenges with mathematics!”
John Walmsley, who is in the final stages of a PhD at the UK's University of
Oxford, provides another example of the broad range of research careers open to
Having completed a four-year master of mathematics (MMath), John took a oneyear conversion course into systems biology, which enabled him to join the
university’s department of computer science.
Specifically, John’s research is in the field of computational cardiac
electrophysiology – in layman’s terms, the use of computer modelling to study the
electrical activities of the heart.
Maths careers in teaching
Research is not the only path for mathematicians keen to make a difference to the
world. Another option is to become a teacher, like New Zealander Emily Sterk.
Since 2003, Emily has taught music and maths at secondary schools in New
Zealand and Australia. She describes teaching as a ‘challenge’ – but an enjoyable
and rewarding one.
“Many students think they are not good at maths or don't enjoy maths, and I like to
change that for them,” she explains.
“I also enjoy the opportunities I have to help them learn the mathematics that will
help them in the ‘real world' – things like understanding home loans, credit cards...
all the traps that finance companies set.”
Albrecht echoes this, saying she was keen to find an academic position that allows
her to combine teaching and research. As the department’s student outreach
coordinator, she also engages with local secondary school students, “hopefully
raising their appreciation of the power, versatility and applicability of
Maths careers in business and finance
Like John, Steven Tucker studied maths at the University of Oxford. Since
graduating, he’s mainly worked in software engineering, and has completed
projects for companies including BT, Lehman Brothers and RBS.
However, in recent years Steven has taken on a new role, as managing director of
his own business, The Payroll Site.
This has meant adopting many new responsibilities. “I work on every aspect of the
business, including advertising, customer service and finance. It might be easier to
list the things I don't do!”
Steven’s maths degree didn’t teach him all these things – but it did provide him
with strong analytical and problem-solving skills, which have helped him adapt to
new challenges.
Likewise, Johanna Ramirez, project accountant at Ennead Architects in New York,
US, says that while she knew little about accounting before starting the job, her
bachelor’s and master’s degrees in maths were undoubtedly good preparation.
So, to reiterate Dr Albrecht’s point, it really seems that career options for
mathematicians are pretty much ‘endless’. Depending on your field of
interest – and the opportunities life throws at you – the skills you gain as a
maths student should serve you well whichever path you choose.